books, The Invisible Moth

Happy Bookiversary!

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So, I’ve never been very good at the self-promotion thing… One of the hardest parts, for me, about being an indie author is that you have to do most of your marketing and advertising yourself. To this day, I still get a little shy when people ask the age-old, “What do you write about?”

But apparently I’ve managed to explain it well enough in the past 2 years that people maintain an interest in my work. Yes, it’s really been 2 years (tomorrow!) since I officially released Masters and Beginners (Volume 1 in The Order of the Twelve Tribes) into the world!

To say I was nervous doesn’t even begin to cover it. I was so ready to become a published author…except deep down, I wasn’t sure I wanted anyone to actually read my book. What if they hated it?

It’s the chance you take. Blessedly, if anyone has a less than favorable view of my titles, I have yet to hear of it. And the praise and encouragement I’ve received has certainly helped in keeping my nose to the grindstone (because believe me, it is a grind to write, edit, format, submit, release, and promote all your own stuff).

But at the end of the day, I do get to admit that, yes, I wrote that.

And that feeling can still be exhilarating.

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Not to blow my own horn…hmm, okay, actually, yes…I’ve made it through the third book in my series (and one of these days the fourth shall finally appear as a finished product). And I managed to squeeze in a collection of short stories as well (and am currently working on a second montage, of flash fiction).

Despite the fact that writing itself is often a solitary act, creating a book is anything but. I owe so much gratitude (and will be shouting it for quite a while) to my cover designers, beta readers, reviewers, and overall writing tribe. To all of you who have helped make this venture worthwhile, thank you, thank you so much.

Here’s to the next two years of The Invisible Moth publishing!

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blogging, books

The Boy Who Steals Houses Release!

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Good morning! It’s Happy Release Day to CG Drews’ second novel, The Boy Who Steals Houses! I’m currently waiting on my copy, hence a review will be forthcoming! But I beta read an early edition, and trust me, if you like heartfelt, poignant, raw contemporaries, GET THIS BOOK and just sob your eyes out for a few hours. You’ll thank me later, I swear.

Here’s the cover summary:

Boys like him don’t get the girl. They go to jail.

Betrayed and abused by everyone who should have taken care of them, Sam and his brother are lost souls. They have a wild, hopeless, precious dream — to make a home for themselves.

Then Sam meets a girl whose laugh is a burst of stardust. But betrayed people have the hardest fists, and Sam has a secret that is about to catch up with him.

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Why is this novel so important? Because it’s one of the very few I’ve come across that accurately represent what it’s like to be neurodivergent in a world that doesn’t accept this, and how it feels to want to be yourself, and at the same time need to find somewhere to belong. There is nothing in here about “curing” neurodivergence; there’s bunches about learning and loving and becoming whole. It also doesn’t gloss over the mistreatment many ND folks receive on sometimes a daily basis; while none of that is pleasant, it’s extremely necessary for people to be aware of.

And we all know that Cait is the master of portraying difficult topics in a dark-cloud-edged-light that will make you cry and scream and hug the book so tightly it passes out.

So who is this evil genius author? Well, according to her publisher’s website, she looks like this:

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But most of us around the blogisphere know her better as the Dragon Queen, the owner of these boots:

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You can find more details about The Boy Who Steals Houses and CG Drews at: https://paperfury.com/, @PaperFury on Twitter, and https://www.instagram.com/paperfury/?hl=en on Instagram.

A note for my American readers, though: Since Cait is Australian, the easiest way to acquire her books if you live in the USA is to go to Amazon or Book Depository (the latter has free shipping, even internationally!). So while you’ll need to wait a little bit to get your hands on her new release, DO IT. Did I mention you’ll love it?

blogging, books

Kingdom of Ash and Soot Blog Tour

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Kingdom of Ash and Soot (The Order of the Crystal Daggers #1)

Author: C.S. Johnson

Publication Date: July 3rd, 2018

Genre: YA/ Historical Fiction/ Adventure

Synopsis:

PRAGUE, 1870.

For the last ten years, nineteen-year-old Eleanora Svobodová has worked as a servant in her stepmother’s household. Along with her older brother, she dreams of the day they will be free to live life on their own terms.

But everything changes when their estranged grandmother comes to Prague on behalf of Queen Victoria. Throughout Bohemia, a string of murders and secret whispers hint at a larger coup. As the leader of the Order of the Crystal Daggers, an ancient order of spies and soldiers that protect kingdoms and their rulers, Lady Penelope is determined to mete out the perpetrators. Now, Eleanora must make the choice between a life of intrigue and saving the lives of others.

Can Eleanora find a way do the right thing and still find freedom?

 

FROM KINGDOM OF ASH AND SOOT

“What is it?” I asked him, noticing that he was staring back at me. “It seems you have remembered your dancing quite well,” he said, and I shook my head at once, keeping my forced smile steady as we passed by Lady POW.

“The practice helps,” I replied neutrally. “And it did help that  Karl was a good dancer last night. Some of the others I danced with were not as good, but fortunately they blamed it on their own poor performance.”

“They were likely distracted by your beauty.”

“You don’t have to talk to me like that.” I rolled my eyes. “Be- sides, you might distract me now with your false flattery.”

“Flattery  is  always  false,  mademoiselle.  I  was  speaking truth.”

Amir smiled. “You may have that problem in the future, when other men are dancing with you.”

“I can learn to handle it later, then.”

“You can also learn it now. There is nothing efficient about wasting time, after all.”

“I’d rather not, thank you very much. There is no need for you to continue talking to me.” My tone was frosty and bitter, every part a perfect complement to the kindness in his eyes. “Unless, of course, you’d like to tell me why you stole my father’s book from me when we unfortunately met?”

“I would not say it was unfortunate.” “What would you say it was, then?”

Amir’s mustache curled around the corners of  his mouth. “God’s humor at work.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” I asked, frustrated and infuriated. “Are you insulting me?”

“Never, mademoiselle.”

Before I could accuse him of lying in addition to insulting me, or before I could “accidentally” begin stepping on his toes, Lady POW began calling out instructions, making me feel even more insulted and infuriated—and even worse, isolated, and unable to do anything to escape.

“Hands up, Eleanora,” she called. “Yes, take a step closer. Now, remember to smile. Watch your timing; men are supposed to lead. And show your interest. Pretend you are dancing with a prince!”

Between Amir’s dancing and Lady Penelope’s snappy judgements, I felt trapped in a world of soft tyranny. It was a world where the truth was too impolite to be spoken, and even if  it had to be, it had  to be dressed up in clothes as strange and as ornate as the ones I was wearing, and it was likely as unrecognizable as I was in the end.

I certainly felt nothing like my usual self.

The others did not seem to believe it was me, either.

Amir held me at a polite distance as we danced, but I was still close enough I could see the pained delight in his eyes as he watched me, and recalling Lady POW’s earlier mistake of calling me by my mother’s name, I suddenly wondered if he was thinking of her, too.

The last note of the waltz rang out, and we finally slowed to a stop.

“Why did you take my father’s book?” This time, my question was quiet but harsh against the growing silence. Amir seemed surprised, but he did not refrain from responding.

 “It was not your father’s book, mademoiselle.”

I slowly dropped my hands from his. Already, I knew what he was going to say.

“When I saw you, it was like falling into a portal to the past, twenty-six years ago. I saw the book, and I knew it could only belong to my Naděžda.”

“You knew my mother.” The words were chunky and foreign to me as they came out of my mouth. I knew I had no reason to accuse him of  something I already knew to be true.

“Yes. She was my dearest friend for many years before … ” Amir said quietly. I saw his gaze lower to the scar on his right hand. “And when she … left … I was angry.”

It plagued me, knowing that Lady POW was not the only one who seemed to prefer my mother to me.

“When she left the Order, you mean?”

“She did not leave the Order,” Amir whispered. “She left me.”

It took me a long moment to process everything. Amir and I were still standing in the middle of the room. Somewhere, a thousand moments and a million miles away, Lady POW clapped and praised us, telling us I was already much better at the waltz than before. She was calling for another song, but I barely heard any of it, as I watched while Amir’s eyes swam over with memories and emotion.

There was suddenly no denying the full truth of the matter. Amir had been in love with my mother.

 

Giveaway Details:

I have an amazing giveaway for you all today! The author is giving away a print copy of each book in her new Order of the Crystal Daggers series, including a brand new companion novella about some of the other characters, a prequel to Kingdom of Ash and Soot! Just click the link below to enter!

Link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/0e7c6a8f67/?

 

Blog Tour Organized By:

R&R Book Tours

Link: http://www.rrbooktours.com

blogging, books

Bookdragon New Year’s Resolutions (Guaranteed Not to Fail!)

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As long as you follow these instructions.

Don’t blame me if you stray from the path.

Common Resolution 1: Tackling that TBR.

Step 1: Don’t add anything new to your TBR until December 2019.

Step 2: Spend the next 11 months reading books you already own, have requested from the library, or as ARCs.

See how easy that was? Your wallet, your shelves, and your family will thank you.

Acceptable rule-breakers: You find out about a 2019 new release from a favorite author that you didn’t know existed; a friend lends you a book you’d feel guilty holding onto for an entire year; the book club you’re in features a title you don’t currently have or had even intended to go near.

Common Resolution 2: Review books in a polite amount of time.

Step 1: Set a deadline for when you need to have certain titles read by.

Step 2: Read said titles.

Step 3: Write said reviews and post them or schedule posting in advance.

Hints on how to make this stick: Don’t request more than one ARC a month; don’t tell more than one person a month you’ll write a review; don’t commit to reviewing *every* *single* *book* you finish. And always, ALWAYS, refer back to the Ultimate Rule on how to control your TBR.

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Common Resolution 3: Complete your WIP and get it on Wattpad/sent to an agent/self-published

Step 1: Type these words into your 62,845K word total manuscript: THE END.

Step 2: Find beta readers you trust to give tactful but beneficial feedback.

Step 3: Engage an editor or Critique Partner (CP) you trust to put said feedback into action.

Step 4: Do the dang editing. Don’t procrastinate. DON’T STRAY FROM THE PATH, YOUNG PADAWAN.

Step 5: Post on Wattpad. Send to agents. Or upload to a self-publishing website and press Enter.

Okay, this one I’m oversimplfying, I know. But, seriously, all you aspiring writers out there, GO FOR IT! The worst that will happen is that you determine this venture didn’t pan out. But publishing or becoming published is the ultimate Shroedinger’s Cat: You will absolutely never know what would have been if you don’t try.

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Less common resolutions include: Spending less time on social media, reading less hyped books, trying more new authors, and branching out into other genres.

My suggestions for all of these are so simple you’ll wonder why you didn’t think of it yourself: Do them.

In all seriousness, though, I really hate to see what the competitive nature of book blogging has done to bookworms who just love to read. Not that I think we should do away with book blogging or anything that extreme — I owe SO much to my beta readers and reviewers and social media followers. But I truly believe that our biggest, and most acted on, resolution this year should be to go back to a love of the written word as the primary reason for doing all of this. It literally DOESN’T MATTER how many books we read in one year, how many ARCs we got approved for, how many reviews we posted, or how all of that compares to other bloggers. We’d do quite well to realize that.

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Autism, books

The Ongoing Need for Proper Autism Representation in Fiction

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I started thinking about this topic (again) recently. Whenever I search for “autism representation in fiction,” a title that always comes up is The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Now, I hate this book. I read it about 6 or 7 years ago, after hearing that it featured an autistic/Asperger’s narrator. And it does. But I really, really wish it didn’t.

What’s so wrong with Curious Incident? Well, in short, it’s offensive as hell. The premise is that a neurodivergent boy (apparently a savant, who has intense skills in some academic subjects but little to no comprehension of human behavior and the world around him) discovers his neighbor’s evidently murdered dog (lovely) and he sets out to uncover whodunit. There are about a million things wrong with this premise.

  • It’s highly unlikely that someone with such impaired functioning would be capable of the level of deduction required to solve this sort of puzzle
  • Not very probable that he would care so much, since it wasn’t even his dog (and it is not that he doesn’t have emotions; he’d feel sad about the dog, but genuinely not see how this affected him in any way)
  • Considering the narrator is presented as having intense anxiety, the very notion of him going into crowded, noisy, busy downtown London by himself  — which does happen in the plot — to resolve the mystery is downright laughable

Along the way, the narrator continually talks down about and to neurotypical people, gets mistreated by the police, the neighbors, his family, pretty much the whole human race, and acts as if he’s somehow superior to the general public because he’s different. None of this is helpful towards teaching the NT population about autism — because it’s blatantly wrong.

This portrayal of neurodivergence makes autists look like androids, unable to process emotion or give a damn about other people, always focused on our own wants and the rest of the world can take a hike; that we’re hateful of everything we don’t understand; prone to condemnation and violence; just plain irritating to our families; and worthy of pity. That’s why I hate, hate, hate this book.

And it really rankles me when professionals in education, social services, and medicine see it as an excellent demonstration of how someone from “the other side” operates. They think this because they don’t truly know what we feel and how we take in information, how our daily environment affects us, or that we’re NOT robots playing at being human — we ARE humans who simply process this world differently than they do. And why don’t they know this? Simple: They don’t take the time to ask us.

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I’ve almost gotten into shouting matches with people who insist that autism is a “disease” or an “affliction,” and refuse to listen to another’s point of view — even of someone who has the condition.

But this is exactly why it’s so important that I march to my soapbox and raise my megaphone — because this is what too many people think autism to be. A disease, a problem that requires fixing. We need to get out there and yell from the rooftops the truth.

Now, while we’re on the subject, do I feel that the character of Christopher Boone himself in Curious Incident is completely unsympathetic? No, actually, I don’t. There were some things about this fictional autistic narrator that did ring true — his anxiety, his struggle to read faces, his greater attachment to animals than to people, his preference for math and puzzles — logical, tangible things rather than inconcrete emotions or shifting opinions that can’t be scientifically quantified. Most of these traits can be found in many spectrum folks. (Not me, because math and I do not get along.) But this is where the responsibility for writing such a novel correctly falls back on the author, Mark Haddon. Haddon has admitted he really doesn’t know much about autism, and this would be why Christopher’s symptoms read like a medical text.

And I’m not the only Actually Autistic who concurs this story displays negative, harmful stereotypes, and should not be referred to as a great example of ASD in fiction. (Scathing reviews can be found on Goodreads.)

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Since so many of us are lacking a good rep of ourselves in books and movies, what should be done about it?

Well, I stand by my crusade for a flood of Own Voices novels or nonfiction memoirs written by Actually Autistics to enter the market. I also think that most of these should be self-published or small press, to reduce the chances of a big name company jumping on the “it’s cool to be autism aware” bandwagon. (How do we think Curious Incident soared to the top of the bestseller list to begin with?) Maintaining the integrity of our mission needs to stay paramount in the eyes of editors and agents — not dollar signs. (See, we understand “normal” people just fine.)

I also think that too much editing would hinder the goal; trying to “water down” our autism and make our experiences and perceptions “more relatable” to the general public would defeat the point. They already don’t relate to us — the idea is to increase their knowledge, not cater to their misconceptions.

And we need more variety — a spectrum means a range of conditions based on a similar foundation. There’s a saying that “if you’ve met one autistic person, then you’ve met one autistic person.”

In my own fantasy series, I made both the characters with autism female (neurodivergent females are already very underused in fiction, and there are bunches of us in the real world). Madison Collins is in a lot of ways me as an adolescent; Avery McKinnon is, for many intents and purposes, me as an adult. They have some commonalities, but remain separate individuals, who have different ambitions and goals, and view their autism differently, too. Since I released my debut novel last year, I’ve received rave reviews for these characters — from those who have relatives or close friends on the spectrum, as well as from those who don’t.

We also need to increase the number of fictional families who don’t consider their ASD children “broken” or “damaged goods.” Since this mindset is (horrifingly) so prevalent in our society, this could take time to change. But if we don’t start, will we ever get there?

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We struggle our entire lives to be accepted as ourselves. Facing further obstacles due to autism now being a buzzword in the media only complicates things. Expanded autism awareness has not resulted in greater autism understanding or inclusion.

The notion of us being a curiosity of behavior needs to be dropped. We are the modern equivalent of the circus freak — stared at, snickered about, even feared. I don’t want us becoming a joke, or a cliche. I really want people to realize that we are not the punchline — that we’re just as valuable as everybody without autism.

Will it happen in my lifetime? Perhaps? But I’m also releasing 2 spectrum children into the world one day — and I sincerely hope they won’t have to struggle the same way I did.

So, it starts with us. It starts now.

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books, community

A Question of Ethics?

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I’m having a bit of a crisis here. In the last few months, I’ve heard numerous reports about Amazon.com and the corporate bully it’s become. Workers in several states and even foreign countries have gone on strike to protest unsafe conditions in the processing centers. Staff have been seriously injured on the job, and Amazon’s response was to basically pretend it didn’t happen.

Indie authors are struggling with Amazon, too. Recently, the website’s review policy changed, and many reviews were taken down without warning or consent of the people who posted them. Others (trad pub authors as well) have had their Kindle version ebooks hacked, and Amazon didn’t seem to care or be ready to do anything about it.

Customer service for many — writers, readers, and purveyors of other sorts of goods — has either been nonexistent, or so unhelpful it may as well not have occurred. More and more frequently when you turn on the news, there’s another interview with a former employee, a report on another business sector the conglomorate giant is trying to acquire, or statistics of how often we use this company.

And it concerns me. Because here we are in a supposedly civilized, advanced society, that has ethics and laws, and apparently we’re ready to forget all of this with a click of the mouse. Because of the savings. The great bargain. The quick shipping. Heaven’s sake, ordered something from Amazon last month myself.

But, if when we place our order, an employee — a hardworking person with a family to support — is then thrown into a system of tumult and chaos, just to ensure our item is located, packed, and ready to mail in the time it takes a cheetah to chase down its dinner, is it really worth it?

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Plus, aren’t we in a free market? With fair trade regulations? Shouldn’t we relish the fact that we live in countries (appealing to all Westerners, and even non-Westerners, here) where we do have choices? And order from some of these other businesses?

Every time you comparison shop for a book, a DVD, a video game, pet food, running shoes, school supplies, a set of tires, Amazon automatically comes up in the search engine. It’s taken a bit of extra time and energy, but I’ve started deliberately finding alternatives. Barnes & Noble sells books, movies, and CDs. Target and Walmart, CVS and Walgreens sell plenty of household wares and school stuff. You can go to Old Navy.com and find clothing for your whole family at reasonable prices. Overstock.com for that new duvet or shower curtain. Zappos for those Nikes.

And a lot of these companies have reputations as good employers.

I’m not a conspiracy theorist by any means, but as I see Amazon attempting to build their corporate empire more and more, I can’t help but think: “And one ring to rule them all.”

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Although as a freelance author, I’m an independent contractor, I feel more comfortable having my publications associated with Barnes & Noble. I’m very pleased with Nook Press, they’ve been efficient and helpful, and my books look lovely, and they’re a company I’m proud to be connected to.

I could’ve gone with Amazon for self-publishing. So many folks do. But there was just something about the idea that made me nervous. Very unsettled. And I’ve learned over the years to trust my instincts.

Do I fault my fellow indie authors who chose Amazon? No. It’s a big name, it’s well-known, it’s easily accessible. I heard the siren song myself.

For me, though, self-publishing is the culmination of a life-long dream. To have my books in my hand, and be able to show them to other people and say, “I wrote this!” Throughout my youth, I’d walk into bookstores like Barnes & Noble and imagine finding a cover with my name on it.

In an actual, brick-and-mortar bookstore.

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Probably this is one of the things about Amazon that bugs me the most. It’s encouraging a trend towards doing everything online, less and less in person. Going into a B&N, or a Waterstones, picking up the book, sniffing the ink, rubbing the pages… No, it’s not a weird book geek thing. It’s amazing. A part of life no one should be without.

And as a writer, who deeply appreciates the craft and art of creative writing, I honestly feel that this experience is something that should always be available to authors as well.

So, what to do now? I don’t approve of flatout boycotts. I don’t want to call for one, because of all the indie authors I know or know of who use Amazon. Or the staff who like their jobs.

And yet…

And yet, we do have other options.

And some of those other options seem to come without heavy ethical debate.

Do I have concrete answers? Not all the way around.

Do I want people to start thinking about this stuff? Yes. Absolutely yes.

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books, community, Mental Health

It’s Time To Stop Being So Neurotic About Goodreads

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Yes, you read that title right. This post is a public service announcement about the health of readers.

Now, before I go any further, it needs to be clarified: This is nothing against Goodreads. I love Goodreads. (With a couple of minus exceptions, which I’ll reach soon here.) Please do not think I am slamming the website. I’m a Goodreads author, for the love of Pete. This discussion refers much more to the attitude and mindset many users of the site have adopted — and here’s why we need to change that.

First, let’s list the problems I’m going to address:

One: People develop a serious fear of missing out syndrome by viewing their friends’ TBRs.

Two: Readers add books to their TBRs in numbers that hit digits scientists exploring the vast outreaches of space cannot fathom.

Three: Reading (and the subsequent) reviewing becomes a chore, a burden, or actually hazardous to your health.

Okay, time to tackle all of these bit by bit. With nice pictures of cuteness and beauty thrown in to alleviate the pain. Of course. Because it’s me, and I’m kind.

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One: People develop a serious fear of missing out syndrome by viewing their friends’ TBRs.

One of my minor quibbles about Goodreads is the fact the entire world can view your TBR (also known as To Be Read list). (Also known as “These are the books I feel I must finish reading before I die so that I will be assured I lived a whole and fruitful existence.”)

Anyway, the reason add titles to my GR TBR is quite simply so that I won’t forget I came across an interesting-sounding novel. Rather than spending countless hours sitting in front of my open library account, wailing, “WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT CALLED?!”, I can just check my GR TBR, and within minutes, have placed hold requests for all the books released in the past year that I think I’ll want to read.

Every once in a while, titles are removed from my list, because either I changed my mind (yes, that IS permitted), or I switched the title to another list (like the “Save for later” in my Amazon or Barnes & Noble carts). I like the idea of “divide and conquer” that this tactic provides. It makes me feel that I am accomplishing massive tasks in bite-sized chunks, and that in itself is satisfying.

However, what I don’t care for regarding the TBR feature is the fact anyone who is your friend or follows you on the website can see which books you’ve added. Most people honestly will not take the time to browse their friends’ selections — but, still, I don’t think this feature is beneficial. Whenever I’ve taken a gander, I can concretely say that two things occur: A) I feel like I don’t know these people’s reading tastes very well (which can draw me closer to, or farther from, their page), or B) I am absolutely dumbstruck by how many great books are out there that I haven’t read yet.

The latter actually does present a very valid problem. “Fear of missing out syndrome” is a real psychological thing, which has increased in our collective consciousness in the internet age. We see that 1,849 random strangers are enjoying this new movie, that we have never even heard of, but now immediately need to find a cinema that’s showing it, and attend the first available viewing. If we stay home and watch reruns of The X-Files, we’ll worry that we’ve missed out on some fantastic cultural experience.

Something similar happens for bookworms, bookwyrms, or bookdragons. We begin adding multiple titles to our TBR that we have no genuine interest in reading…but “everybody else” in our sphere of online life is reviewing it, excited about it, or mentioning it approximately 6 times an hour. Hence, we don’t want to “miss out.”

Now, here’s why this is a bad pattern: Taste is subjective. Some people love mystery novels, others sci-fi, others fantasy, others still romance, others still unapologetic erotica, or horror, or political memoirs, or the autobiographies of hedgehogs. It’s why determining what makes “good” and “bad” literature is so difficult — everyone has varying preferences for style, genre, content, and content rating (G, PG, etc.). It’s one of the precious and important marks of a free society — that we’re allowed to write and publish and read pretty much whatever the heck we choose to. And I wholeheartedly support it.

But what has happened to the part of a free society that pushes aside the crowd-think mindset, and encourages individuals to form their own opinions?

Readers, this is what I suggest: STOP adding a particular title to your TBR purely because 1, 4, or 279 people you know did. Wish them well in their literary endeavors, and concentrate on your own. Do NOT feel guilty or ashamed about this decision. Own it. Be proud of it.

And just don’t peruse your internet neighbors’ TBRs. Check out new releases by authors you love, read reviews on titles that catch your interest, be happy if a friend (or 279 of them) agree a certain novel or manga or author’s grocery list sounds amazing. But don’t stare at your computer screen and click the mouse until your eyes go bloodshot, intent on turning your TBR into an exact replica of someone else’s in the community.

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Two: Readers add books to their TBRs in numbers that hit digits scientists exploring the vast outreaches of space cannot fathom.

There are many registered users of Goodreads who legit have a TBR of hundreds, even thousands, of titles. To compare, mine usually hovers around 30 to 40. For one thing, this is so that I don’t become overwhelmed. For another, I personally follow the sage advice that 42 is the most complete number of all creation (being the answer to life, the universe, and everything), so that’s my limit for a lot of things I undertake.

But others may feel they can handle greater numbers, even triple digits, when it comes to their reading adventures. To which I say, good for them. Except. Except the lack of practicality enters it. Assuming it takes you about a week to finish reading a book, and there are only so many weeks in a year, and humans are only supposed to live about 75 years, and we don’t even learn to read until we’re about 6…

When would you sleep? Would you actually skip school or call in “sick” to work to tick another box off your reading list? What about vacations, illness, emergencies, times when you’re stranded on a desert island or edge of a volcano without any access to a library? Or attendance at weddings, christenings, funerals, graduations — when it’s just plain rude to have your nose stuck in a book? (No matter how good said book is.)

I’m sure this part of the discussion starts to border on ridiculous, but I am relaying, quite honestly, my concern for my fellow bookdragons. What if (in all seriousness) you died suddenly, and the biggest unfinished portion of your life would appear to be your TBR? Not, like, the fact you were planning to become a scientist who found the cure for cancer.

There are people who joke on Twitter about being crushed to death by their TBRs. The numbers racked up by these individuals could apparently give the national debt a run for its (ha) money. Astronomers who are peering into super-powerful telescopes, hoping to discover the exact spot in the universe where the Big Bang took place, have in fact seen these incredibly tall stacks of books waiting to be read, stretching through people’s roofs, into the stratosphere.

(Okay, yes, I made that last part up. Hopefully.)

And borderline-silly debate aside, while reading is always good, collecting books can grow out of control. We’ve all seen the photos on Instagram of people whose bookcases have taken over their house, and they own dozens of copies they haven’t even opened, and in some cases have flatout forgot why they bought it to begin with. This is nearly an addiction. The act of having plenty of paperbacks, hardcovers, used, new, shiny, pretty, unattractive, worn, mint-condition, loved, hated, hyped to others, in one’s general vicinity giving more of a sense of comfort and excitement than just, you know…reading a book and enjoying it, does not seem healthy.

Again, none of this is Goodreads’ fault. Their system is soooo easy — the “want to read” button is right there underneath every single title. BUT. That does not mean you have to click on it. When GR sends you recommendations, you don’t have to pay attention to them.

What I’m suggesting here is: Develop and exhibit self-control, folks. The world will not end if you limit yourself to reading 10 new books a year. Reading is absolutely fantastic, sharing stories and information that way is something I will never oppose. But so is life, and family, friends, pets, and there’s value in taking 3 weeks and 4 days to reach the last page of a 7-chapter middle-grade novel. We need to stop competing with each other. Reading for pleasure is meant to be just that.

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Three: Reading (and the subsequent) reviewing becomes a chore, a burden, or actually hazardous to your health.

Book blogging came out of nowhere to become a thing less than a decade ago. It is just as rapidly becoming not a thing, as bloggers are vanishing from the internet, either literally disappearing without a trace (are we to assume alien abduction??), or stating they are shutting down their website because of too much stress.

Too much stress? From discussing your favorite books with people?

Yupper. Whereas in the early years, like-minded folks would gather together and happily flail over their shared love of a specific author or genre, nowadays there are way too many vicious trolls around. Individuals who evidently will wither and perish unless they inflict nastiness on ordinary people who simply stated an unpopular opinion.

Here’s what I say to this: The trolls deserve to wither and perish.

We are supposed to be civilized. As civilized human beings, BE NICE. If you vehemently disagree with someone and feel a pressing need to say so, BE POLITE. I’ve had mature and tactful discussions with people who felt I was dead wrong on what I thought of their favorite book or author. I welcome the debate. When there’s no foul language, personal attack, or nearly-illegal threats involved, I’m totally fine with it.

Again, this isn’t at all to be chalked up to Goodreads allowing free and open discourse. (Some users would claim this is true.) I applaud GR for not automatically shutting down dissent. (Remember, folks, democracy, we literally bleed and die to have it.) And everybody has the option to remove offensive comments from their own account, or to block a specific person that just is refusing to learn the Golden Rule.

So that’s how we can take care of ourselves. And we can take care of our friends by supporting an online environment where free thought is permitted to flourish, and where trolls are not. I really hate to see people leaving a website or internet space they previously loved because of a few bad apples — but I hate it even more when those bad apples are rotten to the core. That’s bullying, and it’s just wrong. Period.

So, there are my reasons for everybody to rein in their burgeoning Goodreads addiction. Remember, my fellow bookdragons, read and LOVE it. Read BECAUSE you love it. Use the website as a tool to streamline and make your life easier. Connect with each other. Take care of one another. Stay beautiful.

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